Ice-water interactions during floods from Grænalón glacier-dammed lake, Iceland

Matthew J. Roberts*, Finnur Pálsson, Magnús Tumi Gudmundsson, Helgi Björnsson, Fiona S. Tweed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores changing ice-water interactions during jökulhlaups from Graenalón, a 5 × 108 m3 subaerial lake dammed by Skeioarárjökull, Iceland. Unstable drainage of Grænalón since the early 20th century has resulted in 45 jökulhlaups whose hydrologic character has varied enormously. Geomorphic observations and geophysical measurements from the inlet and outlet zones of the subglacial floodwater tract constrained the hydromechanical factors governing ice-water interactions at Grænalón. To date, three distinct drainage regimes have occurred in response to the changing surface elevation of Grænalón. Shifts from one drainage regime to another involved pronounced changes in jökulhlaup magnitude, timing and cyclicity. Present hydraulic conditions for lake drainage differ from the classical view of a pressure-coupled lake draining directly beneath an ice dam. Instead, lowamplitude drawdown occurs at regular, frequent intervals when hydrostatic pressure in a shallow, rock-ice trench enables water to flow beneath a sagging ice barrier. Floodwater exits Skeioarárjökull in a supercooled state due to rapid hydraulic displacement from an overdeepened subglacial basin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-138
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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